Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Saturday, January 17, 2004

The Spoils of War: The Antiquities Trade and the Looting of Iraq, by Gregory Elich was posted on on January 5, 2004.
It contains details of the looting at the Iraqi National Museum and Iraqi artifact recovery updates that I’ve read nowhere else.
Sadly, I did not see any updated information about the reportedly damaged Golden Harp of Ur.
In its conclusion, the report said:

The destruction continues unabated with the exception of the few sites that were put under guard…occupation authorities have refused to issue arms to the guards. Unarmed and usually alone, there is little a guard can do to dissuade criminal gangs. "Sometimes the looters come by the hundreds," explains Thabit Gassad al-Fatlawi, head of Iraqi government inspections in southern Iraq.

The report contains an excellent primer on the antiquities trade and the mysterious, well connected and and media invisible American Council on Cultural Policy, a group representing collectors and dealers in Middle Eastern antiquities.
One of several posts about the ACCP appeared in this space on April 16, 2003.
There are several posts of interest at this link including a listing of the ACCP board members in the post dated October 28, 2003.
There was no mention of reported FBI, Homeland Security and Treasury involvement in the ongoing artifact recovery process despite this illuminating passage:

Well-organized professional thieves systematically looted the choice artifacts. Staff members intervening to save the most valuable objects were told they would be killed if they persisted. Witnesses reported seeing well-dressed men walking through the galleries talking into walkie-talkies or cell phones. One museum official claimed that two "European-looking" men entered the museum, pointed out individual objects, and then left. Artifacts were removed and hauled away in convoys of vans. "It is true that definitely some of the looters were very organized," says archaeologist Francis Deblauwe. "They even brought equipment to lift some of the heavier pieces.
Also, glass cutters were found of a type that’s not readily available in Iraq." Gil Stein, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Chicago, felt that it appeared that unscrupulous art dealers had placed orders in advance. "They were looking for very specific artifacts. They knew where to look." Claud-Peter Haase, Director of the Islamic Museum in Berlin, commented, "The people who did this knew precisely where the most priceless treasures were kept. They sought out certain objects, tracking them down and zeroing in on them as though they had a shopping list and a floor plan of the museum. It is also noteworthy just how these people were able to break into vaults and safes. These people were professionals and definitely knew what they were doing."

The Art Newspaper has the Homeland Security angle and reports a development that coincidentally benifits a certain dealer/collector lobbying group:

Agents who had concentrated exclusively on tracking and seizing smuggled art have now been redeployed to investigate cases related to the war on terrorism and financial fraud.
Although cases of stolen art will still be investigated by Customs agents, no employees will work exclusively on art investigations. The re-organisation has not been publicised, but government officials confirmed the move to The Art Newspaper

The normally staid Art Newspaper candidly goes on to say:

One critic of a conspiratorial bent hinted that aggressive investigators aggravated enough influential collectors and dealers in New York for them to lobby privately for the redeployment of the art squad: “When they finally saw the opportunity with the Bush administration’s new war on terror, they made a few phone calls to people in high places and took care of it”. The Art Newspaper has no evidence of such lobbying.

Images:, The art Newspaper, Reuters
Thursday, January 15, 2004

I haven’t posted specifically about the war for quite a while.
I find the subject rather difficult and have found it so since November 13th when I read an informative report about the Red Cross bombing in Baghdad by photo/journalist Michael Kamber and posted on the equally interesting
His evocative reporting was additional confirmation of the hellish and largely unreported world our innocent middle-class young men and women on active duty in Iraq deal with every day.
Secretary O’Neill’s revelations and the recent Army War College Report should be a sobering wake-up call to a nation seething with equal measures of apathy and concern.
I was shocked by Command’s conduct of the ground advance into Iraq and the subsequent blurring of that conduct as Baghdad’s rubble was reduced to even smaller debris until a statue kinda fell amid a flurry of manna-like color Xerox.
The end of the war's first week satellite phone crack-down and the battlefield firing of Marine 1 Commander Colonel Joe Dowdy as troops stalled amid rumors of limited supplies was my pre-yellowcake Damascus moment of realization that the Iraq war was a complete fake, a gambit for empire, privatization and political hegemony.
As the days passed no national media has ever mentioned or printed Colonel Dowdy’s name or interviewed his family.
In mid April of 2003, this elite Marine commander and any version of reality that differed with Washington’s pre-sold chicken hawk concepts helicoptered into a Kuwaiti oblivion.

Callers to C-SPAN occasionally mention the Colonel’s name to congressional guests on the morning Journal.
The Congressmen always nod sagely and promise to “check into it”.

I remember House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, after being asked, promising to bring the matter of Colonel Dowdy’s status to the head of the House Armed Services Subcommittee.
I’ve read or observed nothing to indicate that Hoyer or any of the other handful of Congressmen did as they promised while on the air.
Almost everyday Dowdy’s name is Googled.
I know this because my blog, sadly, often appears as a top hit.
Do It.
Google “Colonel Joe Dowdy” and see for yourself.
Everything is dated the end of the first week of Iraq war.
Does anyone seriously expect me to believe Diane Sawyer or any of the other media sob sisters would pass up an opportunity to have a good cry with Dowdy’s wife?

I know my September 11th Post Traumatic Stress effect is still lingering as I start to tear up if I even glimpse or hear videotape of a returning soldier hugging wives and family.
The pitiful whimpering sounds I hear the wives making as they embrace their husbands evokes the deep emotion that was so palpable after September 11 and still surprisingly lingers.
Bush’s shameful and ever more obvious prostitution of the presidency, his historically careless conduct of the nation’s business and his cavalier disregard of blood, treasure and Church/State separations are deeply shocking.
As a young man I seriously disliked Nixon but I never for one moment imagined that in a moment of national crisis he would fail to put America’s interests first.
His resignation, however forced, proved his warped love of country.
From Karl’s latest wildly ill-conceived Martian confection to the President’s un-American Faith Based Initiatives to the Iraq sideshow in the War on Terror, Mr. Bush forces a deliberate circumspection for I know he will accept any price while forcing the American people to bear any burden in his misuse of Liberty.

Photos: Reuters, San Francisco Chronicle, The Art Newspaper, The USMC and

An open letter to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd:

Ms. Dowd,
First, let me say I've read the Times all my life and I still find many fine stories in your paper.
I love your photo and can only imagine the drab media slattern your hack offerings suggest you, contrary to your sexy photo, really are.
While certainly not exclusive to your glamorous and certainly surgically altered self, I love the constantly changing media primness used to scold people, candidates and issues not involved with the corporate domination agenda you so obviously shill for.
Many Americans are thankful that so many gazillionaire repundits, like your kitty-faced self, are sharpening their focus and claws on the pressing issues of Doctor Dean's home carpet and General Clark's use of argyle in woolens.
You in the media seem to be somewhat wool-focused in your woolgathering as you have been most emphatically for the past 7 years.
Having worked for the Washington Post Company, Gannett, the Federal government, ARD (German TV network), the Detroit Evening News, Multimedia, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Avco and the Greater Cincinnati Educational Television Foundation covering 30 pre Monica years in print and television I am in a fairly good position to judge the how's, why's and what's of the information and alleged information that passes before my eyes.
I love to regale people here at home with true eyewitnessed unsavory memories of some of your currently active ilk and sadly I have none to share of you except these pen droppings of yours that so regularly soil the NYT pages.
In my conversational News Tips for Regular People, I urge fellow citizens to listen or watch for certain words such as, perhaps, might, if and maybe.
I explain how these qualifiers taint the information and shape unsavory concepts that are then reinforced by the right-wing echo chamber dominating radio and TV talk.
I urge those with computers to read Bob Somerby and the blogs, including my own.
If I have a regret as a former broadcaster it would be the use of promotional campaigns to advance the ratings of anchor teams.
From the end of the 1960's these, what we thought were harmless promotional commercials, programmed America to trust and love the people who presented the then uncompromised news.
Though many perceive the slightly veiled corporate agenda driving today's media many do not.
I want to thank you and your mates for utilizing attacks so similar to those used against Vice President Gore.
I guess it is hard to push even your envelope within the corporate media's Confederacy of Mediocrity and I'm glad it appears you haven't even tried.
You, my little dear, are a sad disgrace to the concept of journalism but, by your artless craft, you are a hero to those of us working for the eventual triumph of Truth.
I look forward to future carpet reports.
Most Sincerely...

The Smoking Gun has looked at The Donald's returns.
It seems the gazillionare hasn't given one penny to September 11-related charities.
Henna must be getting expensive.

Photos: NYT,
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Earth to Mars CEV?

Just one measure of the difficulty facing a human presence in deep space can be found in the August, 1993 NASA Technical Paper 3351 entitled Cellular Track Model for Study of Heavy Ion Beams (PDF).
This paper reports on experiments geared toward understanding the effect of Heavy Primaries upon living tissue.
Heavy Primaries is a term used to describe the radiological remnants of everything that has ever exploded in space from the Big Band to your average Super Nova along with radiation from active stellar structures.
An excellent article by Matthew L. Wald that I originally discussed on December 10, and still available on the New York Times Website, most effectively describes deep space radiation as:

Mostly ions of every element on the periodic table up to iron (No. 26), moving at a substantial fraction of the speed of light, and approaching from distant stars in all directions.

In the 1993 NASA experiment a particle beam is passed through a Monte-Carlo Track Structure, a medical standard for measuring radiological effects upon human tissue.
The terms aerobic and hypoxic conditions that are mentioned in the report refer to tissue samples within high Oxygen and low Oxygen environments.
This study examines the effect of a high-energy particle beam on tissue samples in differing environments as a way of simulating one beam of Heavy Primary radiation in deep space.
The authors of the study were trying to predict cell survival and RBE (Relative Biological Effectiveness) of tissue within a complex radiation field.
They claimed that:

Good agreement is found with experimental results for the survival of human T-1 cells exposed to monoenergetic Carbon, Neon and Argon beams under aerobic and hypoxic conditions.

Remember, this is just one beam of the most potent high energy we can create in a laboratory attempting to simulate a 3D bath of the most complex radiological field ever encountered with the exception of the even more calamitous entry of a solar flare into this very radioactive picture.
A future Mars traveler will likely have to spend, at least, a year within the super hot radiological zone of interplanetary space.
Regarding a Lunar Colony a 1999 NASA paper says:

A space colony must be encased in sufficient mass to shield colonists from radiation. This can be done with any mass, for example, large amounts of lunar soil. A 4.5-meter thick layer of lunar soil may be able to provide adequate protection. Active shielding by creating an electro-magnetic field tries to change the trajectories of charged particles.

Then, of course, there is the "bremsstrahlung" effect.
Just what is the "bremsstrahlung" effect, you ask?
Well according to an extract (a link to the original no longer works along with a not so surprising number of other links to government space radiation studies) from an undated Air Force and NASA study (scroll down):

A second major issue in shielding is the "bremsstrahlung" effect. Laboratory tests have shown that when shielding for a system is increased beyond a certain point, the secondary radiation produced in the shielding by the primaries increases, actually leading to higher doses of the radiation.

If you do not have a headache quite yet consider the Input Output rate calculated by Harry L. Shipman in February of 2000 for one human in space per day:

3.1 kg of food (dry weight)
15-20 kg of water (including drinking water and the water content of food)
4.4 kg of oxygen

7.3 kg of urine
8.8 kg of "metabolic water" -- exhaled in breathing and evaporated from the skin
4.8 kg of carbon dioxide
0.88 kg of solid waste

That comes to a, I would imagine, highly variable 1,132 kilograms of food required resulting in 2,665 kilograms of urine and 322 kilograms of solid waste produced per person per year!

Image: John Frassanito & Associates

The Washington Post’s Al Kamen reflects on just what President Bush was thinking of when asked, Monday, about O’Neill’s accusation of an early 2001 Iraq push.
Bush said:

We were dealing with Desert Badger or flyovers and fly-betweens and looks, and we were fashioning policy along those lines.

Desert Badger?
Just what was Mr. Bush thinking?
Kamen offers suggestions with the most likely:

He's confusing his foxes and his badgers -- Operation Desert Fox was the name for a four-day bombing campaign.

But, the Totem Project offers what could be other possibilities:

Badger medicine is a tough one to carry…it can result in a sad, lonely and alone life…Badger out of control is feared and hated. He is the dictator. He speaks with no concern for the feelings of others. He is concerned only with his personal views and his own welfare. If badger perceives a wrong has been done him, he will follow you to the ends of the earth to get his revenge. If he gets a grip on you, or gets you cornered, he will tear you to shreds. There is no mercy in badger for he cares for no one except himself. Badger is the power monger; the control freak. He is the mark of aggressiveness carried to the extreme.

Kamen's always interesting column also has some information on Don Rumfeld's multiple, pricey dwellings...anyone care to relax at Rummy's Bed & Breakfast?


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Future CEV launch?

From Billmon, a highly interesting bit of news from the February 2001 issue of Petroleum News that could explain NASA’s inexplicable timorousness over the “Martian mud”, the seeming death of robotic exploration and the on-the-cheap look of the recycled human exploration technology:

Dr. Geoffrey Briggs, director, Center for Mars Exploration at the NASA Ames Center, told “Meet Alaska”… NASA has been working with Halliburton, Shell, Baker-Hughes and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to identify drilling technologies that might work on Mars…The earliest drilling opportunity would be 2007…a 2014 Mars mission…would put astronauts on the planet to assist [drilling]… Halliburton and Baker-Hughes are working on some very advanced systems, Briggs said, some so advanced they aren’t willing to talk much about them.

From a January 10th posting on

The Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), will take the shape of a capsule, and become the central component of future Moon/Mars exploration hardware. The first test flights of the CEV may occur as soon as 2007.
The CEV will initially be launched aboard a man-rated version of one of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles, the Boeing Delta 4 or Lockheed Martin Atlas 5.

Regarding NASA’s highly successful robotic planetary explorations, the story continues:

NASA will also be directed to fold in any robotic exploration programs to the new efforts.

Look for Halliburton to advance the idea of low paid Bangladeshi crewed exploration in the closet-sized vehicles!

Image: John Frassanito & Associates


Bubo Virginianus with Rummy

Golly, but it was a curious press conference this afternoon at the Pentagon.
Our owlish, both in appearance and predaceous skills, Secretary of Defense opened with a lengthy statement that seemed as much as a forestalling of the eventual Paul O’Neill question as it was a jumble of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo meant to recast the umpteenth rejustification of the administration’s drooled-after privatization plans.
Eventually, from the most senior member of the usual clutch of timid Pentagon reporters, the beginnings of the expected O’Neill question hit a descending avalanche of allegedly avuncular Rumfeldian quibble.
Most informative in the black is white uninformative way that is so popular today!
As with the President’s aggressively demeaning “pet” names, the Secretary’s blood thirsty faux jocularity, while terribly effective with a cowed press, is wearing a bit thin as televised theater for even supportive members of C-SPAN nation.
Secretary Rumsfeld may forget, in the complexity and duplicity of today’s post-modern American life, a person’s only recourse, as we are sometimes frog marched through the fourth dimension, is to occasionally believe what passes before our own lying eyes.
The President’s seasoned team, masters of scenic backdrop, pithy banner and naked gamesmanship, have long rolled these dice and, naturally, feel they own this game, the box and all the little accessories.
Maybe they have owned them, but I, along with many others, sense a growing awareness, most visible among the Deaniacs and Blogistan, that belie the argyle-obsessed tame media and the forced inevitability of the President’s cash-heavy campaign.
This new phenomenon of blogging, while, likely, partially responsible for the chinks in the administration’s Teflon and, definitely, responsible for goading a recalcitrant press, has proven in e-spades that nastiness and lengthy memories are not exclusive to the not-so-in-control control freaks in Washington.
I know old Don’s ready.
Are you?

Photos:, Reuters
Whoa, fellas!

As the planet explodes with former US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's uncomfortable revelations and administration retaliation, a fresh post on

The truth is, I didn't take any documents at all," O'Neill told NBC television early Tuesday..."I called the chief legal officer at the Treasury Department, the general counsel, and said to him, 'I'd like to have the documents that are OK for me to have.'
"And about three weeks later, the general counsel ... sent me a couple of CDs which I, frankly, never opened. I gave them to Ron believing, as I do, if you're going to trust someone, you need to trust them completely. So I gave Ron the CDs," he said.
Under law, the general counsel is "not supposed to send me anything that isn't unclassified," O'Neill said. "And so, if there's anything in that file that's (not) unclassified, the general counsel failed to be sure that everything was clear."

Photo: AP
Seal: US Treasury

Monday, January 12, 2004

Pictures and animations that will likely B-roll the Blind One's (snort) Mission to Pluto from John Frassanito & Associates.
Note the inflatable bag crew quarters in the lower center of the picture.

Photo: JF&A
Spin Keeps Spinning

A curious front-page puff piece on tiny totalitarian, right-wing organizer and radical Muslim front man Grover Norquist appears in today’s Washington Post:

He is often introduced as the head of the vast right-wing conspiracy. He accepts the title with a faint blush.

The simpering and lengthy homage is crafty piece of classic Postian nonsense that obscures some facts while totally eliminating others.
Grover’s direct monetary connection to Federally indicted Muslim sympathizer Abdurahman Alamoudi and his months-long tiff with right-wing talking head Frank Gaffney are indirectly excused in two sentences buried deep in the feature:

Some conservatives have attacked him for his outreach to Arab and Muslim Americans, charging that he has embraced radicals with ties to terrorism. Administration officials, including Rove, have said there is no truth to the allegations.

But, indirect media lighting can often provide interesting if unintended glimpses into the life of the allegedly profiled:

One coalition dropout dismissed Norquist as a "homo economicus"...Norquist's bachelor townhouse bears evidence of a man whose ideological core is hard…His Costco-brand shirts hang in a closet under a picture of former Senate leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) signing a no-tax pledge…For a bedside table, Norquist uses a giant green canister for Kraft parmesan cheese. He displays what he hopes will be the world's largest collection of airsickness bags. At staff meetings, employees say, he holds court while variously sitting on a giant red plastic ball, eating tuna from a can, rubbing his feet against a massager and sniffing hand lotion as he kneads it into his fingers. He excuses himself to go to "the ladies room."

Yeesch…Anyone for a little antibacterial gel?
Posts and links on October 25, November 5, and December 10 should illuminate some of the Post’s purposeful darkness on serious matters of US National Security.

Modified Photo: Reuters


"Go find me a way to do this."

From Bloomberg and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

The book [The Price of Loyalty] describes a Jan. 30, 2001, meeting of Bush's newly assembled National Security Council...At the end of the meeting, Bush said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Hugh Shelton "should examine our military options" and "how it might look" to use U.S. ground troops in Iraq.

An excellent Saturday post from Billmon's Whiskey Bar.

O'Neill has just introduced as Exhibit A in the case against George W. Bush. It's not quite smoking, but it's close...when the Pentagon (the Pentagon!) is preparing for the disposition of Iraqi oil contracts, and the President of the United States is saying, "find me a way to invade Iraq" -- all this before 9/11/2001 -- then it seems to me the burden of proof should shift from the accuser to the accused, particularly when virtually every claim made by the administration to justify the invasion has since been shown to be false.
The Republicans, of course, will try to keep the focus squarely on O'Neill. I think the ex-Treasury Secretary is about to encounter the politics of personal destruction -- up close and personal.

Photos: AP
Sunday, January 11, 2004
A tedious argument
Of insidious intent...


RUSSERT--When we had the big Internet bubble and everyone was saying, “The Internet’s the wave of the future”… suddenly people said, “How do we make money off the Internet?” The question here is: Will the people who use the Internet, and talk to the blogs, will they show up on caucus night? Will they show up to vote?
…At the end of 2002, Howard Dean himself said, “What’s a blog?

TODD: Ooh. But—yeah.

RUSSERT: He did not know much about the Internet. It’s Joe Trippi, his campaign manager, who actually surfs the Net, reads the blogs and steals—not steals, borrows—ideas from them. Right…looking at these blogs, I was somewhat taken by the similarity…“‘Immature poets imitate,’ said T.S. Eliot. ‘Mature poets steal.’”

Watching poor bloated Timmy, I was further reminded of Eliot:

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

Photo: MSNBC

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